On Thursday, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) introduced their Fast Track trade promotion legislation (The Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015, TPA-2015) to a flurry of adulation that this bill signals momentum on the Big Business-Republican leadership-Obama trade agenda. The free trade fanfare cannot overcome the broad-based public opposition to fast-tracking trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
Far from an exciting new trade initiative, this is pretty much the exact same retrograde legislation that Hatch introduced last year. Fast Track is a parliamentary mechanism that prevents Congress from providing oversight to presidential trade negotiators and relegates the Congress to rubber stamp trade deals like the TPP on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.
The Hatch-Ryan Fast Track (they like to call it “trade promotion authority”) not only sets the rules for how Congress votes on trade deals but the Fast Track fine print prioritizes business interests ahead of consumer protections, food safety rules, public health safeguards and the environment.
Fast Track targets commonsense food labels (including country of origin and GMO labels) as trade barriers that must be eliminated. It also requires the United States to approve the food safety systems of exporting countries even when U.S. oversight is stronger. In 2013, this kind of “equivalence” exposed U.S. consumers to 2.5 million pounds of E. coli tainted ground beef from a Canadian plant that replaced most of its government safety inspectors with its own employees.
But the big deal is that Fast Track sets the stage for new flawed trade deals including the TPP and a deal with the European Union (known as the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP). These two mega-trade deals would impose the global trade rules benefiting transnational companies on the majority of the global economy.
These pacts expand the anti-democratic, job-killing, anti-environment attack on consumer protection that came from the prior trade deals under older Fast Track regimes like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the World Trade Organization.
Only people power and grassroots organizing muscle can defeat the big business push for Fast Track. Now that the bill has been introduced expect a fever-pitched campaign by the free-trade lobby to move the bill along. Historically, Fast Track has fared better in the Senate compared to the narrow victories eked out in the House of Representatives. A companion bill is expected in the House within the week. The Senate Finance Committee is expected to move first, where Senator Hatch is attempting to kick-start the trade debate since the House of Representatives has been mired in “as-seen-on-TV” bickering.
Don’t believe the hype that today’s Fast Track introduction means swift approval for Fast Track and the TPP. Only engaged citizens will be able to derail the corporate free-trade juggernaut that is coming. So contact your Representatives and Senators today and urge them to oppose Fast Track (TPA-2015)
And stay tuned! We will keep you up to speed on the TPP and Fast Track shenanigans in Washington and what it means for you, your family and your community.